By Bob Balgemann


BELVIDERE – Their direction has been made clear. Now, members of the ad-hoc committee dealing with regulations for animal breeders and boarders are going to craft a text amendment for the Boone County Code.

That work will continue May 20, when the panel meets at 1 p.m. in the county administration building.

The committee last met April 29 and there was some spirited debate before members got down to the subject at hand.

Chairman Denny Ellingson said that after hearing what people had to say during the public comments portion of the agenda, he would not take any more audience input for the rest of the meeting.

That didn’t set well with resident Robert Christianson, who pretty much has been given carte blanche when it comes to speaking at will on animal matters.

“Concerns come up as you go along,” he said. “You’re saying you don’t care about what we have to say?”

No, Ellingson replied, he wasn’t saying that. There can be a room-full of people with opinions, he said, and allowing a lot of them to speak as a meeting goes along can cause problems. He referred to the April 15 county board meeting as evidence of that.

“I will do it differently,” he said.

Christianson said he had not encountered that procedure at any other of the county board’s standing committees, such as finance and health and human services.

That didn’t dissuade Ellingson, who stuck by his wanting to limit audience comments.

What’s expected here?

The bottom line was committee members wanted a clearly written set of rules that told breeders and boarders what was expected of them in Boone County. Ideas for doing that ranged from a brochure to a text amendment.

Ultimately, they agreed to proceed with a text amendment after committee member Gwen Meyer reminded them – several times – that was their purpose for being.

Some of the county’s existing rules conflict with those of the state Department of Agriculture, which has the final say in these matters. Ellingson said members should compare the two “and see where we align.”

Any text amendment the county crafts will have to be sent to the department for approval.

Boone County can’t have its own rules because it is not a Home Rule county, Meyer said. Actually, Cook County is the only one in the state with Home Rule powers.

Member Meg Hennessey said she liked the county’s existing rules. But Meyer disagreed, saying she didn’t believe they were adequate. “A lot of problem areas aren’t on the books,” she said.

“They (rules) are a bit vague,” member Jill O’Malley said in agreement.

What’s needed, Meyer said, is for a large group of people to go to Springfield and tell state officials “these are the issues and the changes that need to be made.” She added she knew of a large group of veterinarians who shared that belief.

But member Jeanine French said the brick walls being encountered by the committee won’t go away. “I think we should take what we have on the books and enforce it. Let them (breeders and boarders) know we mean business.”

Enforcement brought in a new set of problems, what with the county having a limited animal control services staff.

More audience comments

The question of enforcement piqued Christianson’s interest and he received permission to speak.

“Everything I’ve heard here is what you can’t do,” he said. “You have on the table what you can do, but you’re not proceeding with that. You can give directions. Are we enforcing rules? Apparently not.”

“People are ignorant,” French interjected. “We have to put it (rules) on a bulletin board for them. Once they see it, they will understand it.”

It was she who suggested reducing the existing regulations to a clearly written pamphlet, giving it to those applying for a special use permit and saying, “This is required of you.”

The county can inspect animal breeders and boarders – that’s part of the special use process – but once again the question of manpower was raised.

Christianson said animal control Supervisor Roger Tresemer “walks a fine line. He’s part of the union and has to keep the union happy and the county happy. Roger will not step over the line. I think he does a good job considering the circumstances.”

But Ellingson said he didn’t think “the union is involved all that much. I think Roger is doing what he’s being asked to do.”

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